Any dynasty league’s rookie draft is the most exciting time of the year. In an Individual Defensive Player (IDP) league – and in the stacked 2020 class – the rookie pool is even deeper, and you might find a good set of comprehensive rankings help get you through even the deepest draft.
I’m here to help.
Below, you’ll find my complete list of rankings for IDP fantasy football players in your 2020 rookie drafts. I don’t shy away from combining the positions and giving you a rough estimate of each player’s value against the others. I even included a tier ranking at the end of the article so you can know when the value drops off on a run of defensive players, and when there might still be someone left worth a draft pick.
Throughout this piece, I’ll break down my reasoning and rationale for my top-5 dynasty options at each IDP fantasy position group: DL, LB, and DB. In most cases, I’m assuming a balanced scoring system (three points for big plays like sacks and interceptions, one point per tackle), but I’ll note when a player has a particular extra upside in one scoring system or another.
So, without any further ado, the first defensive pick in your 2020 IDP rookie draft is…
2020 Dynasty Individual Defensive Player (IDP) Rookie Rankings
Defensive Linemen (DL)
Chase Young, DE, Washington
Over his final two seasons at Ohio State, edge rusher Chase Young posted 27.0 sacks, eight forced fumbles, and 80 combined tackles – 31.5 of them for a loss. Despite that production, if Washington was still in a 3-4 defensive front, there’s a non-zero chance that Young wouldn’t even have been the top option at his own position in IDP rookie drafts, let alone the first overall defensive player. We IDP managers are the benefit of a scheme change, however, and Young should emerge tops among Washington’s edge rushers right away. He’s a disruptive force and clearly deserving of the top defensive spot in your rookie draft.
2. Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Carolina
The next tier down from Young is a steep drop, less because of talent than early-career playing time concerns. Carolina Panthers’ defensive lineman Yetur Gross-Matos will likely start his career on the bench as the third end in Carolina’s 3-4 scheme. His frame and explosion scores compare favorably to Chandler Jones per Mockdraftable, and he should grow into a dominant fantasy asset, having earned 17.5 sacks and 35 tackles for a loss in his final two years at Penn State.
3. A.J. Epenesa, DE, Buffalo
A.J. Epenesa looks like a player who will have a remarkably high floor for IDP leagues, despite potentially not having the highest upside in a given week or season. The Buffalo Bills invested a second-round pick in one of their edge rushers of the future, as “Eppy Jr.” will start his career as the fourth defensive end on the roster. That will give him time to adapt his all-around game to the speed of the NFL, as his final season saw him earn a strong 11.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, and 49 tackles – 14.5 for a loss. He has a versatile production portfolio that should blossom with a full complement of snaps as early as 2021.
4. K’Lavon Chaisson, DE, Jacksonville
There’s a big asterisk on this pick because we’re not entirely sure yet whether the Jacksonville Jaguars will use K’Lavon Chaisson as a defensive end or a strong-side linebacker. If he is on the line, he’s a compelling asset for a team that seems sure to lose top pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue sooner or later. He’s a solidly-built ‘tweener edge player in the mold of Jerry Attaochu or Dee Ford, and though he wasn’t as prolific in his final season as some of his peers, his 6.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for a loss still show plenty of disruptive potential.
5. Javon Kinlaw, DT, San Francisco
The first defensive tackle off the board, in my opinion, should be the San Francisco 49ers’ Javon Kinlaw. Kinlaw is a classic case of the production not matching the traits: on tape, he is the most dominant player on the field on most plays, but he accrued just 10.0 sacks and 65 tackles (17.0 for a loss) over his final two years. He’ll get every chance to start in DeForest Buckner’s old spot, and the talent around him should help to take the pressure off of him as he learns to translate his potential into results.
1. Patrick Queen, LB, Baltimore
The perfect marriage of top-tier talent and early-career opportunity, the Baltimore Ravens selected linebacker Patrick Queen in the first round of the NFL Draft. He will step into a role in which C.J. Mosley averaged 116 combined tackles per season, and he is up to that task: his final season at LSU saw 85 tackles (12 for a loss) and three sacks in 12 starts. With no real competition for snaps except for an upcoming rookie, Queen is locked into a three-down role starting in Week 1 of his rookie year. Mockdraftable compares him physically to the likes of Eric Kendricks and Roquan Smith. With such a choice landing spot, he could even outperform those IDP stars.
2. Kenneth Murray, LB, Los Angeles Chargers
Another great talent lands in the perfect spot, as linebacker Kenneth Murray should man the middle spot for the Los Angeles Chargers very well. A three-year starter in college (he declared for the draft after his junior year), Murray averaged 112 combined tackles, 12.0 for a loss, and three sacks per season in college. His speed is his biggest asset, but he isn’t the kind of frenetic defender you might think; Murray’s speed is married with an effortlessness that indicates his impressive talent. As the middle linebacker for the Chargers, Murray will start his career in an every-down role and can be locked in for a ton of tackles – even as a rookie.
3. Isaiah Simmons, LB, Arizona
Isaiah Simmons is incredibly talented; that much is clear. What isn’t exactly clear is how the Arizona Cardinals are going to use their latest Swiss Army knife defender. Simmons played linebacker, safety, and slot cornerback over his time at Clemson. While head coach Kliff Kingsbury has said Simmons will begin his career at linebacker, we still don’t know if that means a rush linebacker (less good for IDP fantasy football) or an inside linebacker spot. Simmons is incredibly explosive and athletic, ranking in the 91st percentile or higher among NFL Combine linebackers in broad jump, vertical jump, and 40-yard dash, so whatever he does should be fun. He’s just more of a boom/bust prospect, and this ranking reflects his upside more than anything else.
4. Willie Gay Jr., LB, Kansas City
There’s a strong argument to be made for Kansas City Chiefs inside linebacker Willie Gay at LB3 above Simmons, considering we’ve seen how valuable an even passable linebacker in a full-time role can be in the KC defense (think Ramik Wilson in 2016). In just five games as a backup in his final season, Gay posted 28 tackles (3.5 for loss) and one interception – a pace of 73 tackles (9 for a loss) in a full season, without factoring in additional playing time if he was a starter. Gay has a thick frame and tested in the 93rd percentile or higher in the jumps and 40-yard dash, showing top-notch explosiveness. His second-round draft capital might mean you can get top-tier IDP rookie value at a slight discount to his peers.
5. Malik Harrison, LB, Baltimore
Remember what I said about Patrick Queen’s landing spot? All of that applies to Ravens’ third-round draft pick Malik Harrison. Harrison will play more of the physical bruiser JACK role as an inside linebacker for Baltimore, but that should still lead to a ton of tackles (if fewer big plays like interceptions and pass break-ups). A two-year starter, Harrison averaged 78 tackles (12.5 for a loss) and 3.5 sacks over his junior and senior years. This is a deep linebacker class that almost all fell to great landing spots, and Harrison is no different.
Defensive Backs (DB)
1. Jeremy Chinn, S, Carolina
Carolina Panthers second-rounder Jeremy Chinn won’t have a problem finding the lifeblood of IDP fantasy scoring – tackles. Chinn tested in the 94th and 98th percentile, respectively, in the vertical and broad jumps at the combine, showing high explosiveness. In his final year in college, Chinn posted 71 tackles, as well as a team-high four interceptions, so he’s got some flash to go with the substance too. Add to that the fact that he’s landing in Carolina, where strong safety Eric Reid posted 130 tackles (7.0 for a loss) and four sacks in 2019. In addition, the Panthers’ defensive line was devastated by free agency departures, not to mention middle linebacker Luke Kuechly retiring. Considering all of that, and you have a clear top DB option in IDP rookie drafts this year.
2. Xavier McKinney, S, New York Giants
One of the other premier safety landing spots this year was the New York Giants, where Xavier McKinney went in the NFL Draft as the first safety selected. McKinney has upside as a plus athlete with a cornerback’s frame and coverage skills, and the tackling ability to thrive as a safety in multiple positions (led Alabama in 2019 with 95 tackles, also adding three interceptions and five passes defended). The landing spot and his versatility will ensure McKinney has a full complement of snaps right from the jump in the NFL, which is key to any defensive player’s fantasy success.
3. Grant Delpit, S, Cleveland
A player I didn’t expect to like in my 2020 IDP rookie rankings as much as I do is Cleveland Browns’ safety Grant Delpit. Delpit had some immense coverage errors in his final season at LSU and is constantly plagued by poor tackling angles and going for a big hit instead of wrapping and dragging. That said, he’s an extremely urgent player with all the tools to be a solid strong safety in the league (think Morgan Burnett or Bacarri Rambo), and has produced at a high level in a tough conference, averaging 69.5 tackles (7.0 for a loss), 3.5 sacks, 3.5 interceptions, and 8 passes defended over his final two seasons in college. He’s a shakier pick in your dynasty rookie draft than the first two DB options but has a lot of upside.
4. Antoine Winfield Jr., S, Tampa Bay
One of the best abilities is availability, and that goes for playing time as well as injuries – how the phrase originated. As an IDP rookie, I don’t see a clear path to playing time for second-round draft pick Antoine Winfield Jr. on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He’ll be fighting for snaps with three other safeties, all recently drafted in the fourth round or higher, not to mention a deep (if not wildly productive) cornerback depth chart at slot corner. Don’t get me wrong: Winfield would probably be the second player on my 2020 IDP rookie rankings here if we’re considering talent alone, but you need playing time to produce, and it will be tougher for him to win it than other rookies at his position.
5. C.J. Henderson, CB, Jacksonville
The lone cornerback in the top-five, the Jacksonville Jaguars’ ninth-overall selection C.J. Henderson marries playmaking/ball-hawking ability with the fact that he’s not a Darrelle Revis-type lockdown corner who won’t get thrown at. Despite breaking up 11 passes in just nine games in 2019 (as well as picking up 33 tackles), Henderson will still get thrown at plenty in 2020 and beyond, but he has the frame to hold up against the run as well. I don’t often put cornerbacks high in rookie draft rankings, but when I do, I want tools, track record, and draft capital like Henderson’s.
2020 IDP Rookie Rankings
|28||5||Antoine Winfield Jr.||TB||S||S4|
|52||8||Antoine Brooks Jr.||PIT||S||S10|
|80||12||Brian Cole II||MIN||S||S16|
|82||12||Reggie Robinson II||DAL||CB||CB13|
|114||15||Stantley Thomas-Oliver III||CAR||CB||CB21|
Joe Redemann is a football analyst for Pro Football Network, specializing in Individual Defensive Players for fantasy football, defensive scouting for the NFL Draft, and football history for fun. You can follow him @TheIDPGuy on Twitter.